Arts Education – One Building Block to Success
Skill and experience aren’t the only determinants of success; passion is another.
Developing passion is one of the benefits children enjoy when studying the arts, whether they pursue them professionally or not. Fortunately, this region is rich in arts organizations offering educational programs.
York Little Theatre, for example, presents children’s shows and shows in which children may appear. The community theater’s Belmont Academy provides a well-rounded education in the performing arts. There are also full-day summer camp programs, ending in productions.
Theater is “life changing,” said Lyn Bergdoll, executive director. “Performing creates lifetime memories and is a binding experience.”
Every rehearsal is a free lesson in vocal and acting proficiency, but kids also learn life skills—such as sticking to commitments and prioritizing.
Auditions and performing build confidence, and the young actors learn to work as a team.
“Everyone’s role is important, onstage and backstage,” she said.
Payton Lutz, a sixth grader at York Community Day School, has been performing at YLT for five years, in such productions as Mary Poppins.
“I enjoy watching plays, so I thought it might be cool to do them in my free time,” Lutz said. “I really like it. I get to know a lot of people and have a lot of new relationships. Each cast is unique.”
Lutz, who does want to act professionally, said that in any case, theater affords the opportunity to “show people what I can do.” She laughingly called her most recent part, Susan Waverly in White Christmas, “a lot like me, the ultimate child performer.”
The Lancaster Symphony Orchestra features several programs for children, including the Music Discovery Experience serving 50 local schools; Music Discovery performances; and Instrument Petting Zoos, in which instruments are given to third- and fourth-grade students who attend the concerts.
“The zoos reveal the natural talents of a child with a specific instrument,” said Melinda Myers, the symphony’s community engagement and grants manager.
The Gift of Music program collects and refurbishes gently used, donated instruments and occasionally purchases new and used instruments to distribute to music programs whose students can’t afford to rent or buy them.
Open Rehearsals with Lido (an animated conductor’s baton) are free, interactive, after-school enrichment programs for students of all ages.
“Participating in music affects children’s lives in meaningful ways,” said Myers. “Studies show that music education is associated with higher education attainment and higher incomes in adulthood. In the Lancaster school district, 90 percent of students who continue at a two- or four-year college/university were active in their school music program.”
Students who have participated in the Sound Discovery programs scored higher on reading and math assessments and had a higher attendance rate and lower chronic absence rate than other schools as a whole and a lower number of suspensions.
Cohen Sangrey, who is 10 and a fifth-grader at Burrowes Elementary School in Lancaster, has been playing the euphonium, a small tuba, for two years.
“I wanted to do something that not everyone else was doing,” he said of his choice of instrument. “I like the sound of it and being able to play with friends.”
Sangrey has also been able to play in a band, including for school events such as the holiday concert. In middle school, he’ll be able to play in a marching band.
Becky Richeson, executive director and director of development of the Carlisle Arts Learning Center, calls education a “big part” of its mission.
“There are classes year-round for children 5 and up, including for homeschooled children, and an art club at a school one day a week, she said.
As an art gallery rather than a museum, CALC supports local and regional artists, with exhibits changing every six weeks that children—and adults—can view.
The Artworks! Program serves at-risk middle and high school kids year-round, including summer camps, “as a way of giving back to the community,” Richeson added. “Kids in the program built the float for Carlisle’s annual Halloween parade.”
Art education gives students “the vocabulary” with which to speak about art as well as technical skills. But it also “teaches them to think openly and creatively in a secure environment,” she added. “It teaches them to work together in problem solving—to take and give feedback and negotiate challenges and relationships.”
Henry Pluta, a 15-year-old ninth-grader at Carlisle High School, has been in the Artworks! Program for four years. He has learned different styles of art and became more interested in the art world.
But he has also become “more involved” in the community, participating in events such as the Halloween parade and an anti-bullying project.
Plus, Pluta said, “CALC has made me much more social. At CALC, I quickly made new friends and didn’t feel alone anymore. Being at CALC and with my friends making cool projects increased my confidence level.”
At Pennsylvania Regional Ballet, a classical ballet school “with contemporary vision,” students are exposed to many forms of dance, including modern, tap, and jazz, said Sandra Carlino, artistic director.
“Our students may not end up in ballet, but in theater, on cruise ships, or in a modern-dance company,” she said. “Or they may go into physical therapy. If they do ballet, there are beautiful companies all over, not just in New York City.”
Students start at about the age of 3.
“To dance, you have to have heart, a lot of work, and chutzpah,” Carlino added. “A lot of kids tell me that the biggest regret of their lives is not finishing a dance program.”
Success in ballet depends not only on technique and grace, but also on factors a child has no control over, such as body and bone structure. Even those who don’t choose to be or can’t be professional ballet dancers can glean much from studying it.
“They learn discipline, how to take direction, and how to prioritize, between school, homework, and dance,” she said. “Plus, they learn manners.”
Students are expected to be very polite to teachers and fellow students.
Aleah Benjelloun is a senior at Cumberland Valley High School who has studied at PRB since she was 7. One valuable lesson she learned is adaptability.
“Not every company uses the same technique,” Benjelloun said. “It’s good to be well rounded.”
As part of learning choreography, she said, students “have to keep their minds sharp. There’s so much to figure out. We have to keep balance and a smile on our faces.”
Plus, because the dance world is very small, she has made a lot of friendships and connections beyond the PRB studio.
YLT’s Lyn Bergdoll recalls a girl of about 6 who missed her curtain call during a performance because it took her too long to change her costume. After a talk with the director, she came up with a solution of her own—putting one costume on top of the other, then peeling off the top.
“It’s a classic example of how theater can teach problem solving,” Bergdoll said.
The same is true of the other arts. BW